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Body Bags (1993)

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Body Bags is a project that was shown on TV in 1993, originally with the idea of becoming a running series ala Tales from the Crypt, but was shelved and released as a one off horror anthology film. It consists of three short stories, two of which were directed by John Carpenter, and the third by Tobe Hooper. The concept of the directors behind Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre teaming up for a film almost sounds too good to be true. And it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved this film, but it’s no classic and there’s nothing ground breaking about it. I view Body Bags as an absolutely perfect “late night” movie. I watched it in the early hours of the morning and that was the optimum time for me to check it out.

The first story, “The Gas Station” (John Carpenter) focuses on a young girl starting her first night shift in the titular gas station. The tension and build up of suspense here is really well done, and this is definitely the best, most effective short of the film. There’s also cameos from other notable horror directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi which is really fun to see. I loved this one.

The second story, “Hair” (John Carpenter) follows a balding man (played by Stacy Keach) who is desperately searching for a way to hide his receding hair line. He ends up receiving a hair transplant that at first works wonders but turns into something a lot worse. This one is surprisingly very light and breezy, with some funny moments, which fits the ridiculous subject matter. There’s some fairly creepy stuff towards the end, but is ultimately best served as a cheesey late night tale.

The third and final story, “Eye” (Tobe Hooper) is another transplant tale, starring Mark Hamill as a baseball player who gruesomely loses an eye in a car accident. The eye in question is vital to his career so he agrees to undergo an experimental new surgery to give him a new one. Eventually the eye starts giving him weird flashbacks and mood swings from its previous owner, which makes things difficult with his wife (played oddly enough by Twiggy, what a pairing). Hamill was typically great, though I may be biased in that opinion, but seeing Luke Skywalker getting sexually aggressive is an image I would like to get erased from my memory.

I know that’s putting the great actor in a box, and as much as I appreciate his performances in other roles, I’m a Star Wars kid, and he’ll always be Luke to me. Anyway, he did a great job portraying his character’s descent into madness which leads to a dramatic finale.

What I really love about Body Bags though, is what links it all together. The movie opens with a dead coroner in a morgue looking through all the bodies and bemoaning the fact that most of them have died in a very normal way through “natural causes.” He then excitedly finds a body bag, which he tells us are the really good ones, leading into the story in question. It’s a fun framing device, albeit not a completely original one.

The coroner is played by John Carpenter himself, who not only looks great in this role, but he was hilarious too. I was really surprised, I knew he had appeared in minor roles before, but in this film he’s our macabre host and does a great job. His twisted sense of humour really added to the late night movie feel and I found myself really looking to his segments inbetween each story. Tobe Hooper even makes an appearance in the morgue at the end of the film, which closes out this once in a lifetime horror collaboration piece with a great gag.

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It’s not a particularly brilliant horror film, but is almost too much fun for its own good, and again, is best enjoyed in the dark, late at night.

★★★½

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